October 13, 2021
ANOTHER IRAQ IS POSSIBILE: WHY WE SUPPORT THE IRAQUI YOUTH
Insight by Sara Manisera, FADA Collective
When in the Iraqi squares in October 2019, the slogan "Another Iraq is possible" echoed, immediately those words brought back to the world social forum of Porto Alegre in 2001 (Another world is possible), the G8 summit in genoa and to the struggles of thousands of women and men who wanted to build another world and asked the leading global powers and their governments for another globalisation. Twenty years have passed since 2001, a significant year, marked by two traumatic events: the G8 summit in Genoa from 19 to 22 July 2001 and the attack on the Twin Towers on September 11th. Two apparently distant, different events which marked a before and an after and which, looked at twenty years later, show that history has passed from there.
What has happened in the last twenty years has revealed, in fact, that those young people in the squares of Genoa were right. They were right to want a different economy, a different model of development, of globalisation that would put human rights at the centre. The issue of the 2001 Genoa summit, which brought together the richest powers - Canada, Great Britain, the United States, France, Russia, Japan, Italy, Germany and the European Union - was to "defeat poverty". In other words, the official communiqués stated, "identifying measures to support the economies of the most fragile countries according to an integrated strategy, especially with regard to trade and social investment".
In fact, as the No-Global movement, which met in Seattle in 1999, had pointed out and denounced, Western economic policies considered liberal were responsible for injustice and unbearable inequalities between the North and South of the world. The movement called for debt cancellation for the countries of the South, fought against the globalisation of markets, which was accused of erasing the peculiarities and differences of individual countries, called for the Tobin Tax, a tax on currency exchanges designed to limit speculation and redistribute wealth, and called for global protection of the environment. It called for the abolition of tax havens, advocated workers' rights and equal pay for men and women.
In Italy, the no-global movement created the Genoa Social Forum, which was set up to prepare a platform of demands and demands for the 2001 G8 summit. But those demands were harshly repressed in blood and a strategy of tension was put in place leading to the death of 23-year-old Carlo Giuliani, the wounding of thousands of protesters and the torture of hundreds of defenceless people in the Genoa Bolzaneto barracks and the Diaz school.
Among the political leaders present at the summit was George W. Bush, President of the United States, who had beaten Democrat Al Gore after a hotly contested election that was decided by a margin of less than 2,000 votes. One of his first moves as president was to refuse to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, to which 40 countries had already signed up. There was Silvio Berlusconi, who became president on 11 June 2001, in a government as in 1994, with Alleanza Nazionale, the former Italian Social Movement, and therefore the former fascist area. There was Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, and in Britain Tony Blair who had moved British Labour to the right by introducing the concept of the 'Third Way', with its liberalist policies in the economy.
Why is it important to remember these names and these facts? Because the G8 summit in Genoa and the subsequent attack on the Twin Towers have shaped the last twenty years, both in terms of democratic participation and stability and peace in the Middle East. After 11 September, the foreign policy of the United States and the European Union was reshaped by identifying new dangers that justified continued military efforts abroad. While before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the threat to national security was embodied in communism, in 2001 the new enemies became Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and, more generally, Islam, viciously juxtaposed with terrorism. George W. Bush's and Tony Blair's decisions - also supported by Italy - to invade first Afghanistan and then Iraq were justified on the pretext of protecting national security.
In order to justify the military intervention in Iraq, for example, the American intelligence collected a vast amount of evidence to obtain international consensus and public opinion, based on information that later proved to be false: the presence of weapons of mass destruction that threatened the security of the United States, the oppression of the Iraqi people and the existence of a danger to the whole world.
International public opinion, therefore, was distracted by these new 'enemies', while global finance and neo-liberal policies exacerbated economic and social inequalities, increasing the exploitation of natural resources and local indigenous peoples.
What has happened in the last twenty years in the Middle East - and in Iraq - has shown that the squares of Porto Alegre, Genoa, and Rome in 2003, where over a million people took to the streets to say 'No to war', were right. Since 2003, Iraq has suffered a military intervention, a Sunni insurgency against the central government and American forces, a civil war, the occupation of a third of the country by the jihadist organisation Daesh, and a 'liberation' that has caused tens of thousands of civilian victims. In addition, there is the constant presence of pro-Iranian armed militias that suppress the protests of Iraqi youth.
This is why Voice Over Foundation has chosen to support young people in Iraq. Because we believe that it is right to offer those young people, born and raised at the turn of the century, and therefore deprived of rights, the possibility to build their own future.
Voice Over Foundation has chosen to support the Officine di Pace project. The project was set up thanks to the NGO Un Ponte Per, which has been active in the country since 1991. It is a place where young Iraqi men and women from different cultures, religions and ethnic groups can share experiences, play sports, carry out voluntary work for their communities and together build another Iraq, free from violence and conflicts between the different ethnic groups living there.
If politicians had listened to the young people who took to the streets in 2001, we would not be picking up the pieces and the rubble of wicked choices dictated by purely economic and warlike logic. This is why we believe it is essential to listen to and support the young people in Iraq. Because 20 years later, thousands of activists, human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and in general the freest and most non-violent voices continue to be threatened or killed for demanding fundamental rights, such as the right to water, public health or freedom of expression.
It is in this context that Voice Over Foundation has chosen to be there to support the young Iraqi men and women who are struggling to claim a better future.